Sarah Palmer by JJ
On an unusually windy October morning, Sarah Palmer sits alone in her kitchen, smoking a cigarette while staring out the window at a blowing douglas fir. For some reason, she hasn’t turned on the kitchen light yet. She wants to sit a moment in the darkness. It is oddly comforting.
There is a sound in the living room. Like a whisper or a breeze. Sarah rises slowly from the kitchen table while extinguising her cigarette in a small heart shaped clay ash tray presented years ago as a Mother’s day gift from her daughter Laura..
Laura was her only child. She died five years ago. Leland Palmer was her only husband and he died too. The house is hers alone to fill, most consistently with cigarette smoke.
In the living room, Sarah discovers a window is open. There is no sign that it was forcibly opened. She shuts it and gently calls out to the room, “Laura…Leland.” There is no response. The room is ignoring her. A potted plant boredly drooping.
A knock on the front door followed by a familiar voice. Betty Briggs making an unexpected, early a.m. housecall.
Sarah opens the door.
“Sarah, are you ready?”
“For what, Betty?”
“Remember, at Church last week, we talked about visiting the cemetary today.”
Sarah, pulling a fresh cigarette out of her bathroom robe and lighting it, “Oh, was that today?”
“It is today. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ll do it another time, I just thought you wanted me with you.”
“I do. Betty, I can’t lie, I forgot completely, but I’ll dress quickly. Come in, have a seat.”
Sarah lets Betty pass into the home and designates with her hand the living room as a waiting room.
“I’ll be right down.”
Upstairs, Sarah dresses. She notices that her bedroom window is also open. It’s a relief when she recalls opening it last night to listen to the rain.
Staring at the window, she wonders if the mysterious man with the long dirty gray hair will ever return to her mind. Sometimes, she wishes he would. Sometimes, she wishes he would come crawling through the window on an electrified night the way she thought he might have once before. His presence in visions used to serve as a strange signal that the unknown loomed nearby. That maybe her daughter was closer than she thought, acting up on some other, unknown plane of existence. The visions had subsided, ever since the F.B.I. agent was taken away and no one really knew what to do with themselves anymore. Ever since she began forgetting to visit her loved ones’ graves.
Today, she had forgotten, but Betty Briggs had not.
“Sarah? I’m just going to use your phone to make a quick call.”
“Go right ahead.” Sarah shouts to the doorway, hoping it reaches Betty downstairs, but admittedly apathetic.
Minutes later, Sarah enter her own living room. Betty is finishing up a conversation. Sarah doesn’t wonder for long who Betty is cooing to on the other end of the phone. Some couples have beaten the odds, remaining married while the rest of the world trips all over itself into the ever widening grave of failed marriages.
“That was Garland. Wondering where his breakfast is. I told him we’d meet him at the diner around noon for brunch. Maybe Bobby will join us. You’d like to see him.”
Sarah grabs her jacket and purse from the front hall closet.
Betty drives Sarah to the cemetary. Sarah knows she is not allowed to smoke in Betty’s car. It irritates her especially when they’re stuck at a stop light for what seems like five minutes.
“Do you mind if I open the window a crack?”
“Go right ahead, Sarah. Sorry, it’s manual.”
Sarah rolls her eyes privately and rolls down the window next to her. The breeze is a breath of fresh, chill air. Sarah looks at the passing homes for some sign, some indication that the visit today will ignite a vision, like a small spark in an old fireplace.
At the graveyard, Sarah smokes. Betty grips her shoulder.
Staring at her husband’s grave, Sarah concentrates on the text. “Loving husband and father.” She knows those four words caused a brief controversy among the town’s residents a few years back, but she doesn’t care anymore. She insisted they be etched on his stone because she believed Leland was those things. Despite everything.
Suddenly, Sarah hears an awful, squealing laughter. Nearby, standing in the shade of a pine, she sees a gravedigger chuckling away.
“Betty, why is that man laughing?”
“What man, Sarah?”
Sarah points in the direction of the laughing gravedigger, whose eyes are hidden by the brim of an old brown railroad cap.
Sarah stares at the man. She recognizes something about his chin, the hair underneath his cap. It is gray and oily. But his body type does not match that of the individual she thinks she is seeing.
“Oh, he’s just one of the gravediggers. He stops in at the diner from time to time. He is a filthy man. His hands are always ashy looking.”
“No, I think that is…”
Sarah walks over to the man, intent on enveloping his whole image. She wants to see him up close.
The closer she gets, the more he turns away. He suddenly speaks to her.
“Well, I ain’t never seen no coffin the color of a pink bumper car.”
Sarah looks down at the grotesquely pink coffin lowered in the grave. It does have a glittering aspect. She looks back up at the gravediggers face. It is flabby and yet oddly pinched. She has never seen this man before.
Sarah turns away in disappointment. She walks back to Betty’s car, with Betty on her tail.
“Do you want to see Bob? Maybe he can meet us at the diner for lunch.”
“Yes…”Sarah instantly responds, before slowly losing her balance. She falls over on to her knees.
“Sarah, Sarah…are you okay?”
“I want to see Bob. I want to see Bob.” Sarah repeats in a voice of sudden low pitch and power.
Betty leans over.
“Oh, Sarah, what’s the matter?”
“I want to see him.”
“Well, he’s home now. For the weekend, but he’s flying back to L.A. Monday.”
“Bob does not leave this place.”
“He does. He’s all grown up now, Sarah. He has a home. He’s married…”
“Did he marry Laura? Are Laura and he married.”
“No, Sarah. Bobby married Lisa, remember. I sent you the wedding picture.”
“Oh, Bobby. Yes, Bobby.”
Sarah sits up, gaining her balance.
“Why don’t I take you home, Sarah.”
Betty helps Sarah up and guides her to the car.
Sarah sits silently in the car on the way home. She doesn’t have to ask to open the car window. In fact, she finds it too cold with the window open. She slowly shuts it.
She’ll have to have a cigarette when she gets home.